Praying For the Church

About this time each year we set aside a day of prayer. Sometimes we call this day the Day of Prayer for Crops and Industry. It is this title that brings to light the true emphasis that our Prayer Day must have. The Annual Day of Prayer is to ask the blessing of Jehovah our God upon the fertile fields that they may bring forth a harvest of good things for us. And, although most of us are far removed from the land and agriculture, we do well to pay attention to the emphasis of Prayer Day. However, in this article, without doing violence to or destroying the aforementioned emphasis, I want to depart a little from tradition and call your attention to another petition which must have a chief place in our prayer. We must pray for the peace of Jerusalem. We must have delight in the prosperity of the Church. God’s people spoke in the captivity of Babylon, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.” (Psalm 137:5, 6) So, as we live in the midst of the bosom of the antichristian world, must we regard the church in our prayers. 

Often we find this love for the Church revealed to us in the Psalms. Many times we read of the dear place that Zion, God’s holy hill, and Jerusalem, the city of God had in the hearts and prayers of God’s people in the old dispensation. I think for example of one of the Psalms of degrees, Psalm 122. We could do no better than to have this Psalm resound in our soul when we approach unto God’s House from Sunday to Sunday. “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.” (verses 1 & 2) But then notice especially verses 6-8: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee.” 

The terminology of the Psalms deal of course with the figures of the old dispensation. This Psalm focuses upon Jerusalem as it is the Old Testament type and picture of God’s covenant and church. Jerusalem was the spiritual center of the promised land of Canaan. All the physical attributes that speak of the beauty of Zion only point to its true spiritual grandeur. It was a city compact and fair with towering defenses, the city of the king. It was unto the city of Jerusalem that God’s people journeyed, for there was the Most Holy Place. On Mt. Zion God dwelt with His people in covenant communion and fellowship. There the ark of the covenant was found under one roof with the Holy Place where the children of Abraham might bring their sacrifices. Zion was the place of God’s delight! There He chose to live with His chosen people. 

The true beauty of Jerusalem is designated in its very name. Jerusalem designates the habitation, dwelling, or possession of peace. It was the city of peace. Not primarily an earthly and physical peace, for this was only true in part. During the reign of Solomon peace reigned in Israel, and Solomon was able to execute the delight of his father David in the building of the temple. But Jerusalem saw much war, as anyone at all acquainted with Old Testament history knows. Yea, the city of peace was even destroyed in 586 B.C. But the peace of Jerusalem was the tranquility that God’s people enjoyed with Jehovah. The peace of Jerusalem was the peace of God’s covenant. It was the result of God’s gracious forgiveness of sin. The peace of Jerusalem was found in the many sacrifices that all pointed to the Christ Who would truly establish peace for His people. 

But the typical, though beautiful, must ultimately fail and give way to the real which it foreshadowed. The city of Jerusalem and Mount Zion as we just spoke of it was no exception. The church and covenant of the Old Testament becomes universalized in the new dispensation. Jerusalem becomes the catholic church. Zechariah prophesied of this already in the times that belonged to the shadows and pictures. He said “Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls. . . .” Isaiah spoke of enlarging the tent, lengthening the cords, and strengthening the stakes. (Isaiah 54:2) Since the veil of the temple was torn in twain, the Lord Jehovah, the God of Israel has taken up His covenant abode in the hearts of His people in every nation, tribe, and tongue. Since the Priest, who was priest par excellence, offered Himself as the atonement for the sins of His own, we are the temples of God. And even as the name Jerusalem depicted the characteristic of the peace of God that belonged to that typical city, so the church today is tranquil in peace, for her warfare has been accomplished. Though the Devil, the world, and all the powers of evil threaten against us, we shall not be greatly moved! For there is nothing that can separate the church from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

But let us understand that the complete peace of Jerusalem will be ushered in only when she finally descends from heaven as a bride adorned for her husband. Though her warfare has been accomplished, the church is still militant. That is our experience. Quite obviously, we know this to be the case from an external point of view. The church is plagued by persecution and oppression. Though we do not as yet experience this in the country in which we live, the church is and will be persecuted for righteousness sake. So terrible will this persecution become, that the days will be shortened for the sake of the elect of the Church. Things must get worse before we see the better of the eternal peace. But there is also an internal aspect to the peace of Zion, the Church. Not only do we as members of the Body of Christ have to suffer the lashing of the world, but we also struggle with ourselves! The members of the flesh war against the spirit. Our souls are not always calm but sometimes in great upheaval, knowing that our warfare has been accomplished, our flesh is still often lured by that which no longer has a hold upon us, and, worse yet, is sometimes overcome. Among the saints, the citizens of Jerusalem, we find much worry, anxiety, distress, and littleness of faith. It is not always peaceful in Zion. 

Therefore, pray for peace! Such a prayer is motivated by a true love and concern for Zion. The Church of Christ as it makes itself manifest here upon the earth must be dear to our hearts. The cause of the kingdom must be uppermost in our minds. Our situation is analogous to that of the Babylonian captivity. There they could not sing the songs of Zion. It was altogether too painful for them. Yet, this was a result of their deep love. If I forget Zion, let my right hand forget her cunning. These are powerful words. As the Church in the new dispensation has been made catholic, so the type of Babylon is universal. Today the Church lives in the clutches of the world that has no use or love for the Church. There must be a special place in the heart of the child of God for the Church. We must see her beauty and spiritual significance for us. We are told in our confession that the Church is chiefly characterized by the preaching of the Word of God. Paul described the’ proclamation of the Word as “Preaching Christ crucified.” This is the same gospel which was manifest in a typical way in the temple at Jerusalem through the priesthood and sacrifice. It was this that made Jerusalem the spiritual center of the land of Canaan and the love of God’s people. So it is with the church today. We repair to God’s house each Sabbath to be invigorated spiritually by the Spirit through the preaching of the Word. It is for us an oasis in the dry desert land of this pilgrim’s journey. We have a longing to be so instructed and uplifted, do we not? Let us’ pray for the peace of Zion that we may have the doors of our churches open each Sunday morning. What a wealth immeasurable is ours! “Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek thy good.” (verse 9) Jerusalem without the temple was of no consequence. The people who returned from the captivity of Babylon realized this very keenly. We seek the Church because there God delights to dwell. In the Church He takes His abode in the midst of His people! We must be careful not to seek Jerusalem because of her beautiful buildings and magnificent palaces. We may not love the Church of God simply because of its outward appeal. All too many churches have forgotten the sacrifice in the temple, Christ crucified, and made their drawing power a social gospel and physical attraction.

And we pray for the peace of Zion, “for my brethren and companions’ sakes.” Our prayer is never selfish or egotistical. There are those who join us as we approach the house of the Lord. They are my companions. They too are God’s covenant people that have the same delight for the church in their heart. They too seek Jerusalem because it is the house of the Lord our God. Together we have itching ears for the pure gospel of Christ. We are one in the body of Christ and unified by the bond of faith that ties us to Christ Who is Head of the Body of the Church. We pray for peace that our brothers and sisters may worship with us, singing the songs of Zion and hearing the Spirit address the Church. That’s why it bothers and we are filled with concern when pews are empty. We join in the joys, sorrows, and problems of our companions. We seek the welfare of Zion before our own! 

And the encouragement in all this is that they who love Zion shall prosper. I must point out the original here. The word prosperity here is the same word that the Psalmist uses with regard to Jerusalem’s peace. So really the idea is that those who seek the peace of the Church shall themselves experience peace. If our sincerest desire is not for Zion, if the Church is not chief in that which we seek, then we must not expect the blessing of peace in our heart and life. But for those who seek the good of Jerusalem, who love the Church and show it in very deed, God gives abundant prosperity. We shall see God’s kingdom prosper and increase all our days here below.

We pray for the peace of Jerusalem now and that it may come in all its perfection on that great day of days. As those who prosper in Zion, we shall abide in His fear.